Like any game of chance, it’s easy to imagine that cheating at roulette has been a part of the game almost from its beginning. Most gamblers only want to know the odds and they’re happy to make bets accordingly. Some players don’t want to play when they’re at a disadvantage. Instead of finding a game they can beat through some combination of mathematical skill, intuition, and play-acting (poker), these players prefer to take matters into their own hands and cheat the game.
I’ve collected the famous roulette cheats in the list below. As you’ll notice, many of these dishonest practices need a person on the inside (casino staff) to succeed. In one or two cases, the cheaters are the gambling operators themselves. Whoever’s doing the cheating, I would advise against the practice. It’s illegal to use mechanical devices to help you affect the odds of the game, so the article below is for entertainment purposes only–I don’t recommend anyone cheating at roulette.
Dipping the Wheel
Leaning on the wheel apparatus or the table it’s sitting on is one traditional way to cheat. This technique would unbalance the spin and make the ball fall at a particular time and place in its descent. Heavy leaning would be required to do this, though. Modern tables have strict enforcement of rules against leaning on the apparatus, while many tables are protected by Perspex, so this form of cheating is out of fashion.
Top hatting was a low-tech cheating method used in the days before surveillance cameras and modern casino personnel training made sleight-of-hand tricks less effective. In its classic form, the cheaters needed the help of the dealer to pull this off, though you’ll see in a minute this isn’t always required. When the wheel has finished spinning and the ball has come to rest, the top-hat technique requires one player (or other person standing by) to distract the dealer. As the dealer looks away, the first player switches their bet to the winning mark. Dealers are trained not to fall for attempts to distract them, which is why top hatting usually requires the participation of an insider. The case of the Francis Farrugia and the Italian top hatters proves it’s not always needed.
World’s Biggest Roulette Cheats
For twenty years, Francis Farrugia and his accomplices traveled around the globe beating the casinos at roulette. They were so good at the top hatting cheat that they didn’t need the participation of inside personnel. Farrugia and his team were so slick that they were able to hit dozens of casinos on the European continent. The roulette cheating team eventually cheated casinos in Las Vegas, Macau, and Australia. It was only when the team traveled to the biggest high-stakes casinos in London that they were caught. Trying to hit the high-roller tables, Italian-born Francis Farrugia, Francesco Baioni and Frank Camilleri were caught cheating and put on trial. Despite papers for 50 fake identities and learning from interrogation that the group had no bankroll except what they stole from the casinos, UK authorities were only able to convict the men on a count of forgery. Francis Farrugia was given a 9-month suspended sentence in September of 2012.
Wheel gaffing tends to be done by casino personnel who want to help friends cheat when they play at the table. Gaffing is a catch-all term for attempts to unbalance the wheel so that slots on one section of the wheel are more likely to catch the ball. Tampering with the frets which separate pockets is one common method to gaff the wheel. While lone players can do this if they are left alone with the wheel long enough to tamper, one usually needs confederates on the inside to get away with this process.
Deadening of Pocket Surface
Pockets can be coated with spray plastics or other polymers which would deaden the bounce of the ball. Over many spins, the ball would be more likely to land in these pockets. The two methods of applying the polymer which come to mind would be spraying it on the surface or painting it on. In either case, this substance would need to be invisible when apply, because the machinery is inspected often. The kind of time it would take for this operation almost requires a member of the casino staff perform this task.
Magnets in the Ball
In at least one instance, a ball with a magnet in its center was exchanged for the official casino ball. With the magnet inserted, a person holding another magnet could direct the ball to a section of the wheel they had bet on. This method was discovered, but the people running the casino couldn’t account for how the fake equipment was slipped into play. Once again, the most logical assumption is it was an inside job.
Players who can calculate the decaying orbit of the ball can use sector targeting bets to get a decided advantage. Scott Lang wrote a book in the 1980s which taught players how to use a stopwatch to determine the decaying orbit of the ball. First, you calculate where the ball begins. Next, you calculate how much the ball’s orbit has decayed (slipped down the cylinder) when it takes its first and second revolutions. From this information, you can calculate which sector of the wheel the ball is likely to land in. While you can’t predict which exact pocket the ball is going to land in, you can narrow down the possibilities to the point you’re making a positive expectation bet, if you announce the bet in time. Sector targeting is a technique which has a legendary status in the roulette cheat world.
These days, cheats are thought to use laser scanners–including the Hawkeye laser computer–to chart the course of the ball and calculate the likely landing spots. In 2004, the Ritz Casino in London caught a two Serbian men and a Hungarian woman using a laser scanner to cheat. While the Ritz Casino management said the cheaters took £100,000 from their operation, Scotland Yard believed they may have taken as much as £300,000 from London-area casinos